Robert Kennedy despised Lyndon Johnson but it's not clear to me why.

Johnson was a dutiful vice-president and honored JFK's legacy by passing the civil rights act that Kennedy would likely have been incapable of passing himself.

One may say it was Vietnam, but the hostilities seem to have begun far earlier than that. Not to mention that it was the Kennedy administration which got the US into that quagmire and LBJ was pretty much just left holding the bag with an impossible situation beyond his control

So, why did RFK hate LBJ?

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    You're looking for reasons beyond them both being aggressive, egotistical, overbearing asses [note that these are not necessarily bad traits in a politician!} who were political rivals? And as a Yankee, was prejudiced against Southerners? And was 30 years younger? (I think it was a miracle they worked together at all.) – Mark Olson Jul 5 '19 at 1:16
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    "plainly obvious" in what source? – Aaron Brick Jul 5 '19 at 1:19

Robert A. Caro's The Passage of Power goes into some detail on this, dating RFK's antipathy towards LBJ to before they had met for the first time. Leaving aside the political aspects (especially disagreements over Vietnam) which are mentioned in the Wikipedia page on Robert F. Kennedy, Caro relates the first meeting between the two in January 1953 in the Senate cafeteria where RFK was sitting at a table with Joseph McCarthy and others:

As Johnson, Busby and Reedy walked by, McCarthy, as was his custom, jumped up to shake Johnson’s hand, calling him, as senators were already starting to do, “Leader,” and McCarthy’s staffers also rose— except, quite conspicuously, for Bobby, who sat unmoving, with a look on his face that Busby described as “sort of a glower.”

Lyndon Johnson knew how to handle that situation. Moving around the table, he extended his hand to take McCarthy’s and those of the standing staffers, and, when he got to Bobby Kennedy, stood there, with his hand not exactly extended but, in Busby’s words, “sort of halfraised,” looking down at Kennedy. For a long moment Kennedy didn’t move. The glower had deepened into something more. “Bobby could really look hating,” Busby says, “and that was how he looked then. He didn’t want to get up, but Johnson was kind of forcing him to,” and finally, without looking Johnson in the eye, he stood up and shook his hand.

Later, after the Johnson group had finished their breakfast and were leaving the cafeteria, Busby asked, “What was that all about in there?” and Johnson replied, “It’s about Roosevelt and his father.”...The long relationship between Joseph P. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt had ended in acrimony and bitterness, and Johnson, the young congressman, was a Roosevelt protégé.

To make things worse, LBJ had for many years been telling the story of how Roosevelt (FDR) had fired Joseph Kennedy as Ambassador to the UK (LBJ had been in the presence of Roosevelt when FDR had spoken to the elder Kennedy on the phone):

Johnson related how Roosevelt, in his booming voice, had said, “Joe, how are ya? Been sittin’ here with Lyndon just thinkin’ about you, and I want to talk to you, my son. Can’t wait.… Make it tonight,” and then, hanging up the phone and turning to him, had said, with a smile, “I’m gonna fire the sonofabitch.”

This was, unsurprisingly, humiliating to RFK, who was very close to his father, especially as Johnson, a skilled raconteur, told the story many times and, apparently, with great relish while making use of his gift for mimicry.

LBJ friend and advisor Tommy Corcoran related another incident when RFK felt the Kennedy name to have been slighted by LBJ, this one concerning the run-up to the 1956 presidential election and Johnson's unsuccessful attempt to gain the Democratic nomination. At a meeting with Corcoran, Joseph Kennedy, accompanied by his son RFK, made an offer:

If Johnson would announce his intention to run for President and promise privately to take Jack Kennedy as his running mate, Joe would arrange financing for the ticket.

Source: Robert Dallek, 'Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1908–1960'


Corcoran put the proposition before Lyndon, who turned it down. “Lyndon told me he wasn’t running and I told Joe,” Corcoran recalls. “Young Bobby … was infuriated. He believed it was unforgivably discourteous to turn down his father’s generous offer.”

Source: Dallek

Corcoran also relates that the calmer JFK was “more circumspect" about the rejected offer. Geoffrey Hodgson, in JFK and LBJ: The Last Two Great Presidents, also mentions a later incident of LBJ attacking Joseph Kennedy, this time at the Democratic National Convention in 1960. LBJ

attacked the founding father of the Kennedy clan.... Joseph P. Kennedy, ambassador to London before World War II, had been distinctly sympathetic to those British conservatives led by Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister always portrayed by the cartoonists with an umbrella, who sought to appease Hitler. “I wasn’t any Chamberlain-umbrella policy man,” LBJ assured the Washington state delegation. “I never thought Hitler was right.” Robert Kennedy, for one, never forgot or forgave this slur on his father

But there was more to it than that:

But there was also the aspect that lay beyond the political, and beyond analysis, too, the aspect that led George Reedy to ask, “Did you ever see two dogs come into a room … ?” There was Bobby’s hatred for liars, and his feeling that Lyndon Johnson “lies all the time … lies even when he doesn’t have to lie.” There was his hatred for yes-men—and for those who wanted to be surrounded by yes-men—and Johnson’s insistence on being surrounded by such men, an insistence which, Bobby was to say, “makes it very difficult, unless you want to kiss his behind all the time.” He detested the politician’s false bonhomie, and Johnson embodied that bonhomie. “He [Bobby] recoiled at being touched,” and of course Lyndon Johnson was always touching and hugging. And talking. “It was southwestern exaggeration against Yankee understatement,” Arthur Schlesinger has written. “Robert Kennedy, in the New England manner, liked people to keep their physical distance. Johnson … was all over everybody.” So many of Bobby Kennedy’s pet hates were embodied in Lyndon Johnson.

Source: Caro

Caro also cites Harry McPerson, who was LBJ's counsel and speechwriter, and William vanden Heuvel, assistant to RFK:

Says Harry McPherson, who had worked for Johnson before the vice presidency, “If your brother is President, and you’ve got this powerhouse accustomed to being in command as Vice President, it would make you as suspicious as anything.” Kennedy’s aide William vanden Heuvel says that Robert Kennedy saw Johnson as “a manipulative force” who could, if he ever got off his leash, be very difficult to rein in again. So the leash had to be kept tight.

Source: Caro

Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud that Defined a Decade by Jeff Shesol goes into great depth on the LBJ - RFK relationship. However, as Caro observes by citing RFK himself, there was a recognition of LBJ's consummate political skills:

“I can’t stand the bastard,” he once said to Richard Goodwin, “but he’s the most formidable human being I’ve ever met.” “He just eats up strong men,” he said on another occasion. “The fact is that he’s able to eat people up, even people who are considered rather strong figures.”

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